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Work Hardening at Saunders Therapy Centers

Saunders Therapy Centers has been considered the Twin Cities leader in injured worker rehabilitation for over 20 years.

We provide several services specifically designed to identify and maximize the work-related functional abilities of those injured on the job. Communication is a hallmark of Saunders Therapy Centers’ service. We work closely with the client, physician, Qualified Rehabilitation Counselor (QRC), case manager, insurance adjuster, and employer to fully understand the unique requirements of each case.

Each of our clinics has a large gym area and equipment that allows us to evaluate work-related function and simulate job-related activities. The therapists who provide these services are specially trained, very experienced, and understand industry, the workers compensation system, and the unique issues involved in work-related injuries. Our services are comprehensive and include:

Work Hardening and Work Conditioning Evaluation

In this 2 hour evaluation, we obtain a thorough history, work history, psychosocial screening and baseline functional assessment on maximum lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, upper extremity function and various body position capabilities. Our report clearly states our impressions of the client’s effort, the job-related goals, and our recommended length and frequency of the Work Hardening or Work Conditioning program. Saunders Therapy Centers customizes the length of the program based on evaluation results, availability of light or modified duty and program goals.

Work Hardening clients at Saunders Therapy CentersAt the end of the 2 hours, we have a clear idea of the client’s current functional capabilities, and we understand the work-related goals. In addition, the results of the psychosocial screening help us determine possible non-physical barriers that may prevent successful achievement of the goals. Examples of non-physical barriers include depression, chemical dependency, anxiety, fear, and other issues sometimes seen in individuals who have been off work for a long period of time.

Work Hardening Program

Work Hardening is for the client who is post-acute but needs more intensive rehabilitation to prepare him/her for return to work. Both general exercise and work simulation activities are stressed. As the program progresses, work simulation activities become the primary focus of the program. We follow the American Physical Therapy Association’s and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s guidelines for Work Hardening programs, which state that Work Hardening services should address both the physical and psychological rehabilitation needs of the client. Work Hardening clients participate in weekly group sessions with our licensed consulting psychologist to help deal with the many psychosocial issues that work-injured individuals face.Work Hardening clients at Saunders Therapy Centers

The results of the Work Hardening and Work Conditioning Evaluation help us determine which program is most appropriate for each individual. Clients who are appropriate for Saunders Therapy Centers' Work Hardening services have both physical and psychosocial rehabilitation needs. It is important to mention that most clients who have been off work for a long period of time are struggling with psychosocial barriers such as fear, anxiety, and even anger. Work Hardening clients do not necessarily have psychological diagnoses or need psychological “counseling” – they may simply need more close supervision and guidance to work through pain, fear, and stress that is often a natural consequence of being out of work and dealing with the worker’s compensation system.

Work Hardening clients at Saunders Therapy Centers

Work Conditioning Program

When clients need the intense physical and functional restoration that Work Hardening offers, but do not appear to have psychosocial barriers to recovery, Work Conditioning is appropriate. Work Conditioning can be physically and functionally just as intense as Work Hardening, and is structured to meet each client’s individual needs. The main difference between Work Hardening and Work Conditioning is that Work Conditioning clients do not participate in weekly group sessions with our psychologist, and do not require the more intense monitoring of psychosocial barriers that might prevent success in the program.

Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE)Flight Attendant Job Simulation at Saunders Therapy Centers

We have found that the best way to evaluate a person’s endurance is to observe him or her in a work-like environment for several days.  Capacity Evaluation is three days long. After a 2 hour baseline assessment, during which we determine client’s maximum capabilities, the client returns for 2 consecutive days of endurance testing, 8 hours per day.

The activities tested during the two, 8-hour days can be very specific to a particular job or can answer a specific referral question. We spend a great deal of time prior to the evaluation making sure we understand the job requirements, the critical physical demands, and the question(s) we are being asked to answer. We can also perform a more generic evaluation if no particular job goal is identified or we are being asked to identify general abilities. The evaluation can be tailored to either the spine or to the upper or lower extremities. Because of the cumulative nature of most upper extremity injuries, our evaluation is particularly well-suited for these types of injuries, because we observe the client for two, full, 8-hour days.

Advantages to the Saunders Functional Capacity Evaluation include:

  • We obtain true endurance capabilities versus extrapolating from a database or graph.
  • Over the three-day period, clients become more confident in their own abilities.
  • We have a longer period of time in which to observe and document consistency of effort.

Job Simulation in Work Hardening at Saunders Therapy CentersPhysical Abilities Testing (PAT)

For clients who are having difficulty performing work activities but do not have an active worker's compensation claim, we offer a 2-hour test designed to help you or your physician determine basic work abilities. This is a limited test, compared to our Functional Capacity Evaluation, and we are unable to determine endurance capabilities or ability to perform repetitive lifting over an 8-hour work day.

The main benefit to the PAT is to document ability to perform work-like positions and maximum lifting capabilities in cases where such documentation is helpful for legal cases, disability determination, or other needs. 

The PAT is a cash-based service, and full payment is required in advance of the testing.


Realistic, Experienced, Non-Biased Assessment and Rehabilitation for Worker Injuries


More Industrial Rehabilitation Images from Saunders Therapy Centers

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(763) 315-1296

(952) 924-0199

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(651) 645-8083